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Race to the Bottom 2023: Game 140

Five years after the inaugural study, it’s the return of an occasional series tracing the 2023 club’s attempt to avoid becoming the worst White Sox team in history

Luis Robert Jr. has learned how lonely it is at the top of an abominable roster.
| Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was almost 100 games ago that this series was stoked up for the first time since the uphill-climb of 2018 — and that was a season we knew would be bad, and could follow with bemusement and muted hope for better days.

Our better days came in a brief, pandemic 2020 and then a 93-win run in the full year of 2021. While beggars can’t be choosers, both years came with caveats, as 2020 was a sneeze of a season that featured a White Sox fall from tops in the AL to playoff road club in a blink of an eye and 2021 was, well, Tony La Russa’d.

Who knew that just two seasons later, after a weird .500 punt in 2022, we’d be watching the White Sox complete another Top 10-worst campaign?

While there is no suspense over the White Sox becoming the WORST club in franchise history, meeting or surpassing 2018’s 100 losses and cracking the Top 6 worst White Sox clubs ever is very much in play.

With the White Sox sitting at seventh-worst in franchise history right now, let’s take a look at the six worse teams in White Sox history, and where the 2023 club sits in comparison.

1932 White Sox

140-game record: 44-96
51-111 pace
7th (of 8) place, American League
55 GB
Final record (adjusted to 162 games): 52-109-1
Top Player: Ted Lyons, 5.7 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 1932 White Sox: Impossible
Believe it or not, the worst team in White Sox history finished strong in reaching its eventual .325 winning percentage, going 5-5 to end the season (there was a WE GIVE UP final game of the year, a doubleheader nightcap that ended in a tie after just five innings, talk about bailing at the finish line).

Remember the start of the 2023 season, when there was all the hullabaloo about the White Sox having no winning streaks and failing to win any series? Well, 2023 has nothing on 1932, a squad that had just one three-game winning streak and one four-game winning streak — all season long.

1948 White Sox

140-game record: 46-93-1
54-107-1 pace
8th (last) place, American League
41 1⁄2 GB
Final record (adjusted to 162 games): 54-106-2
Top Player: Luke Appling, 3.5 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 1948 White Sox: 0-22 would create a tie
The 1948 club went 5-8 to finish the season, again with a slightly stronger kick as the end was in sight. But in reality, things got worse before they improved, as Game 140 was a 9-6 loss to the A’s and the start of a five-game losing streak that saw the basement-dwellers lose another two games in the AL standings; thus the true finish to the 1948 season was, like 1932, a 5-5 record with a season-ending, doubleheader tie (at least in 1948, the teams played eight innings before realizing the fruitlessness of Game 154 between the sixth-place, 94-loss Browns and last-place, 101-loss White Sox).

1970 White Sox

140-game record: 49-91
57-105 pace
6th (of 6) place, AL West
35 1⁄2 GB
Final record: 56-106
Top Player: Tommy John, 5.7 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 1970 White Sox: 1-21
The 1970 team is odd in that it had two All-Star level talents topping the squad, Tommy John and Luis Aparicio (4.8 WAR) and five overall players performing at the 2.0+ WAR “starter” level. However, the bottom of the roster really dragged the team down, with an astounding 19 players worse that replacement level (negative WAR), including four players (shortstop Rich Morales, right fielder Tommy McCraw, pitcher Barry Moore and right fielder John Matias) who were all at -1.0 WAR or worse and who combined to play in 212 games for the club.

(The 2023 White Sox actually have 20 players currently ticketed for negative WAR, as well as an equal four players at -1.0 WAR or worse: reliever Aaron Bummer, starter Lance Lynn, right fielder Oscar Colás and shortstop Tim Anderson. These players have already clocked in for 250 games for the White Sox this season.)

1934 White Sox

140-game record: 51-88-1
59-102-1 pace
8th (of 8) place, American League
40 1⁄2 GB
Final record (adjusted to 162 games): 56-105-1
Top Player: Al Simmons, 4.4 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 1934 White Sox: 2-20
This White Sox club is the first one showing up here that truly tanked the end of the season, going 2-11 to end September. In fact, Game 140 (a 9-4 loss to the A’s) kicked off a season-worst, 10-game losing streak that saw the Pale Hose get outscored 78-35.

1931 White Sox

140-game record: 54-84-2
62-97-3 pace
7th (of 8) place, American League
42 1⁄2 GB
Final record (adjusted to 162 games): 58-101-3
Top Player: Lu Blue, 5.3 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 1931 White Sox: 5-17
Yes, you’re reading this right, three of the five worst White Sox teams in history came in a four-year span (1931, 1932, 1934). Like the White Sox of three seasons later, the 1931 team also tanked the end of the season pretty badly. Game 140 was a 10-10 tie, but from there the club won just two of 16 games (one tie), winning Game 141 6-5 over the Red Sox and then winning just once more the rest of the way. That collapse included a 10-game losing streak, just like 1934 — but outscored just 55-28 in that stretch.

2018 White Sox

140-game record: 56-84
65-97 pace
4th (of 5) place, AL Central
23 1⁄2 GB
Final record: 62-100
Top Player: Tim Anderson, 3.7 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 2018 White Sox: 7-15
The Ricky Renteria-led rebuilders finished the year 6-16, which by the standards here among the worst of the worst is a pretty middling end to the season. However, if not for a three-run rally in the ninth inning capped by a Daniel Palka walk-off, two-run single to stun first-place Cleveland, the White Sox would have ended the year on the very worst of sour notes: nine straight losses.

2023 White Sox

140-game record: 54-86
63-99 pace
4th (of 5) place, AL Central
19 GB
Final record: ?
Top Player: Luis Robert Jr., 5.2 WAR currently, on pace for 6.0 WAR
2023 White Sox finish to end up worse than the 2018 White Sox: 7-15
Both the 1931 and 2018 teams were better at this point in the season, and I write this without research when I say that at this point in the year (140 games), the White Sox are in fact the fifth-worst club in franchise history.

The good news is that the White Sox have a weak schedule remaining, with just three games left to play against anyone (Arizona) that could in any way be fighting for playoff consideration; soberly, then, the South Siders project to finish 2023 at 9-13, landing them at the 63-99 record needed to avoid the indignities of being worse than the 2018 rebuilding club and a fifth-ever (and second in 53 years) triple-digit-loss season.

If the White Sox can “pull off” the “miracle” of finishing 9-13 and avoiding 100 losses, it will also find them dropping from their current seventh-worst team in history to a tie for ninth-worst ever, with the 2013 White Sox. It’s also not unfathomable that these White Sox could drop entirely out of the Top 10 worst White Sox teams of all time; the No. 10 spot is held by the 1976 White Sox (64-97), so somehow managing a .500 (11-11) record the rest of the season would place the 2023 club at 65-97, “merely” the 11th-worst team ever.

Now, given how set in its fate the 2023 White Sox are, this very likely is the second and final Race to the Bottom update for the season. However, if the team gets hot (or, super cold) over the next week or so ... say, the Getz Era that’s started with one win in a week continues at that pace, somehow, well, I’ll be back to depress (or impress!) you some more.

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